Pregnancy Turned You into a Klutz and Here’s Why

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In the last day, you’ve knocked over a glass of orange juice onto the floor you just washed, spilled your coffee on your good white blouse, and tripped over nothing. Or if you didn’t do those things, you did other things that make you feel like a klutz.

You may have had the grace of a gymnast before your pregnancy, but now you feel like you can’t take a step without dropping something, knocking something over, losing your balance, or doing all three at once.

What gives?

Clumsiness can be a fact of life during pregnancy. You already know that pregnancy is playing games with both your mind and your body. Let’s talk about your mind first. Pregnancy brain exists, and so does brain fog. Your brain is being bathed in a tide of the hormones like progesterone and estrogen, which increase during pregnancy and affect your brain. Later in your pregnancy, another hormone, oxytocin, increases, which primes you to feel love and protectiveness toward your baby, but also makes you worry more.

In addition to the hormone issues, your brain is also in overdrive. All pregnant women have a lot on their mind, way more than they do usually. You are planning for your delivery, having to deal with doctor’s appointments that disrupt your regular routine, and probably rearranging your house to make room for the baby. If this is your second or third child, you are dealing with the needs of your other children and their feelings about the new sibling. Add to this any changes in your sleep routine, which can also play hob with your ability to concentrate and watch what you are doing. Exhaustion almost always increases clumsiness.

These hormonal and nonhormonal brain changes are why you may be more likely to drop the glass you were holding or knock over something on the counter.

But it isn’t just all in your brain. Physical changes in your body can also cause pregnancy clumsiness. As your pregnancy advances, your center of gravity changes. Your center of gravity is the spot in your body around which all the other parts of your body are balanced. This is a very simplified description, since your center of gravity changes depending on the position of your arms, legs, and head, and also changes if you are carrying anything heavy. Usually, a woman’s center of gravity while she is standing is located a bit below her belly button, about halfway between her belly and her spine. (A standing man’s center of gravity is usually a little above his belly button.)

As your abdomen pushes forward during your pregnancy, your center of gravity while you are standing moves forward of where it is usually. These changes mean your balance may start being a bit off during the second trimester of your pregnancy and can keep changing until you give birth. This continuing change means that you don’t get a chance to get used to a new center of gravity. These changes in your balance mean that you must be extra careful while going up and down stairs or walking up or down a slope.

Later in pregnancy, more changes start. In the last month of pregnancy, your body starts making a hormone called relaxin that softens the ligaments in your body. This helps to prepare your pelvis for childbirth, but it can also mean that you are more likely to twist an ankle because relaxin works on all your ligaments, not just the ones in your pelvis.

So how should you deal with this clumsiness? First, cut yourself a break. If you are dropping things and knocking things over, forgive yourself and move on. Keep in mind that you were once more a graceful person and that you will be one again. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to stay away from the family heirloom china until after you give birth.

Second, take your time. Move more slowly. Try to plan your movements. You are more likely to drop things or bang into the walls and furniture when you are rushing around. Use the bannister when you go up and down stairs.

If you do trip or fall during pregnancy and hurt yourself, contact your obstetrician or midwife.

You should also call your healthcare provider if you feel that you are having serious issues with your sense of balance or if your vision has become blurry. Blurry vision can be a symptom of high blood pressure or preeclampsia.

Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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